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Upper Body Workout for Runners: 3 Awesome Exercises

Runners are a very rare bread. They all have strong legs and outstanding endurance. But many runners find that they need to maintain a strong core and upper body as well. That’s why we’ve put together three exercises that create an awesome upper body workout for runners. These three exercises will help runners maintain a strong back, chest and core in order to maintain proper posture while on long endurance runs and help runners avoid fatigue.

But first, let’s take a minute to understand why it’s important for runners to workout their upper body. And how creating an upper body workout for runners is different than creating an upper body workout for other athletes.

What’s the Ideal Upper Body Workout for Runners?

An ideal upper body workout for runners should focus on strengthening their back and core muscles. For runners, the arms are a bit secondary but they must be considered because they contribute to maintaining the rhythmic motion between the upper and lower body. Runners with weaker arms could struggle to position their shoulders properly and maintain an optimal positioning for the duration of their run when running long distances.

This is troublesome for runners because when the shoulders aren’t properly positioned, the diaphragm won’t be able to expand and provide the airflow needed to support the exhaustive effort. Running is an intense activity and airflow is one of the major keys to maintaining endurance. Almost everybody can run for a few seconds or even for a few minutes, but when it comes to finding your proper rhythm and maintaining it for lengthier durations, everything little thing matters. Runners arms have to move in such a way that they contribute to maintaining the balance in motion, as well as the overall speed and performance.

The Benefits of an Upper Body Workout for Runners

Running may seem simplistic, but it’s actually a very complex motion. It involves side to side movement and rotation at the same time. This means the upper body muscles are directly involved in the running activity, so they can’t be weak. The age old saying “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” is especially true when it comes to running.

The main role of your upper body muscles is to reduce wasted motion, thus allowing your other muscles to be more effective in their effort of moving you forward. This can contribute to an improvement of your performance in terms of speed and endurance. When you don’t waste motion, all your strength goes into moving you forward. Besides, as you can go faster with the same amount of effort, you are also going to be able to run for a longer period of time, without exhausting yourself quite as early.

An upper body workout for runners allows them to develop as a well-rounded athlete. Running, in and of itself, is an insanely strenuous workout for the lower body. Training your legs on the run and then in the gym can lead to over-training the lower body. In the long run, this will stunt your progress. The most logical way to keep in shape, develop both your muscle mass and your endurance, is to add upper body workouts to your routine. This will give your legs time to recover and build muscle mass and you’ll be able to achieve better results due to additional upper body muscles.

The Best Upper Body Exercises for Runners

When it comes to runners and upper body work outs, it all comes down the exercises that build lean muscle mass and not bulky, heavy muscle. This means that the ideal workout should revolve around lifting a lighter weight for a higher amount of repetitions. Most exercises should aim to hit 3 or 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.  Doing a higher set of repetitions and keeping the heart rate elevated also benefits runners more than a slower paced, heavier weight workout because it requires a higher endurance level. Because of this, high intensity interval training workouts are a great option for runners.

There are two different types of exercises; pulling and pushing. As you may have guessed, pulling exercises involve movements associate with a pulling motion, such as a cable pull down or a pull-up. Whereas, pushing exercises are based on pushing weight up such as the bench press. Pulling exercises tend to be more beneficial for runners because they more closely mimic the running motion.

But runners shouldn’t ignore pushing exercises because they help even out the chest, thus allowing it to expand more. The more air your lungs can take in, the better your body is able to achieve a high level of endurance.

Upper Body Workout for Runners: 3 Awesome Exercises

1. The Rower

The rowing machine is ideal for runners because it provides them with the best of both worlds: cardio and muscle building. The average rowing machine workout can be done in 20 minutes and produces maximum results if you’re going balls-to-the-walls.

The other benefit of the rowing machine is that it provides not only a great upper body workout, but also a great lower body workout. It’s essentially a full-body exercise that works on both cardio and lean muscle gains, what’s not to love?

There is literally no end to your creativity when it comes to rowing. The most basic exercise performed on the rowing machine is to row for a set number of meters, for example, 200 meters, rest for one minute, then repeat for a set amount of time. To mix it up, you could go all-out and aim to complete a set number of meters within a certain time. For example, you could aim to complete 1,000 meters in 6 or 7 minutes. If you beat the clock, finish your workout with burpees until the bell rings.

2. Use Your Bodyweight

Bodyweight exercises are perfect for runners because they focus on building both the cardiovascular system and the athlete’s lean muscle mass while using nothing other than your body. There are several bodyweight exercises that runners should focus on. For the upper body, the primary body weight exercises are pull-ups and push-ups.

Pull-ups are a core exercise for anyone looking to develop a strong upper body. The variations are virtually endless. To miss it up, incorporate close grip, wide grip, and normal grip pull-ups into your routine. These variations will target your upper bodies slightly differently and get the most out of your workout. When pull-ups get too easy, add a weight to your body for an additional challenge.

The same variations can be attributed to the push-up. Close, wide, and normal push-ups are all vital to developing lean muscle that will benefit your running. For an additional challenge, you can also place a weight on your back to increase the difficulty.

To take it one step further, add in a variety of planks to your routine to build your core which promotes a better upper body. Straight planks, elevated planks, and a side planks will all help you develop a strong core and achieve better results while running.

3. The Bodyweight Row

The bodyweight row is especially beneficial for runners although it isn’t one of the more popular exercises that are seen in the gym. But, when it comes to runners, the body weight row will help to prevent rounded shoulders which limit the chests ability to expand. The bodyweight row will target not only your chest but also your core. For additional difficulty, try the single-handed bodyweight row.